3 lessons I learned from saying no to an acquisition offer
08 Nov 2013
A few years back, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world offered to buy my company, a startup digital communications firm. It wasn’t “sell-your-house-and-live-on-a-yacht” kind of money, but it was more than enough to capture my full, undivided attention.
I had all but made up my mind to accept. But when the time came to pick up a pen and sign, I walked. Turning down the offer changed the course of my company and my life and taught me many important lessons, both personal and professional. Here are three of the most valuable to me as a chief executive and entrepreneur.
Let Others Have a Share of the Vision
Three years after founding Interakt I had exhausted all available capital to implement the business plan I’d submitted to the investment company, and I found myself unable to meet payroll. I suggested to members of my leadership team that it might be time for them to move on and seek opportunity elsewhere.
Not a single person took the suggestion. I was genuinely touched to realize that I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t given up on the vision. In fact, the members of the senior team, including myself, voluntarily went without a paycheck for several months.
Today, several years later, I still stand in awe of the talented, hard-working people who believed in our company and what we were trying to accomplish—so much so that they were willing to sacrifice on a personal level to help pull our organization through a difficult time.
Allowing others to share my vision—along with the inherent risk—renewed my confidence in the future of the company and was critical to the growth and success we have since enjoyed.
Put Your Dreams Above Your Bottom Line
My business partner and I built Interakt on the principal of “communications inside out,” meaning we help brands align their communications internally and externally so they can deliver on their brand promise. I knew that accepting the acquisition offer would change Interakt and the core of what we stood for forever. That is something I was not willing to accept. Even though the offer was handsome, I knew the brand we had worked so hard to build was worth much more.
The driving force behind a business like mine cannot be equated to building a house on spec, and then turning around and selling it to the highest bidder. If you’re truly interested in the business and want to succeed in the long run, you must have faith in your ideas and remain committed to your vision despite temptations and the inevitable challenges.
Looking back, I believe we have been successful because we never put our bottom line before our dreams. No matter what anyone says, simply making lots of money is a hollow substitute for successfully pursuing your passion.
Have the Courage to Trust Your Instincts
All along my gut instinct told me I should open Interakt offices in other countries. While many cautioned that I was not staying focused and was spreading myself too thin, I know today that it was the best decision I ever made. Opening offices in multiple geographies saved Interakt and helped us survive the challenges to come—devastating market crashes, global recession and the undulating cycles in market performance.
Sometimes you just have to go with your instinct. I had a vision that never waivered. I had a strategy for global expansion across multiple geographies. I had a courageous team that shared my vision and stood ready to help turn my plan into action, even when the odds were against us. And, I believed in myself. That faith, resilience and never-say-die attitude paid off. Interakt survived and continues to grow ever stronger.
Even now, when things seem tough, I still recall those inspiring lines that Steve Jobs quoted in his memorable Stanford commencement speech: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” And then I always add, “Stay independent.”